The author introduces readers to a handful of characters in the opening pages of the book. The locale is New York City and the two main protagonists are Bob, an advertising agency for Chaber, Crossen, and Monig (get it?), and a longshoreman named Joe. These are the guys you want on your team when a nuclear bomb wipes out the entire city. Conveniently, Bob and Joe, who don't know each other yet, each head to subway stations when they hear the siren wail of a bomb warning.
Inside Penn Station and 53rd Street Station, the survivors huddle together and listen to the ominous sounds of seven nuclear bombs pound the city into dust. Thankfully, Bob, Joe, and a dozen other survivors possess the wherewithal to understand that nothing above ground exists and that their only hope of survival lies in organizing roughly 3,000 people into small groups, each assigned to a group leader.
The book's first half, roughly 90 pages, was mesmerizing as survivors traveled the subway on foot gathering supplies from the basements of pharmacies and department stores. Like any good post-apocalyptic novel, the true terror is humanity itself. It only takes a couple of days before people begin to spiral into savage depths of greed. The groups begin to war with each other, but the biggest threat is a mobster and a cop who team-up, oddly enough, to create a faction loaded with a supply of guns the mob had kept in a hidden underground locker. It's up to Bob and Joe to hunt down the faction's members and eliminate them.
As you can imagine, I loved this book. It really has everything a good doomsday novel needs to be memorable and exciting. The bombs, fallout, radiation, rationing, dividing, conquering, it's all right here in these 200 pages. The novel still remains relevant today with many of the survivors dividing based on preconceived notions of stereotypes and former jobs. Bob is quick to notify everyone that whoever they were in a former life no longer matters. Despairingly, he reminds the survivors that they are now simply subway residents with no family and no home. By minimizing, Bob is able to calm most of the surviving population. It was so elementary, but a brilliant reminder that life resets often. The book's not-too-preachy message is that there's never an ending, only a reset and continuation. Sort of like Jeff Goldblum's Jurassic Park mantra - "Life Finds a Way".
The Rest Must Die is an easy recommendation for anyone that loves post-apocalyptic fiction. It's a realistic look at how humanity is quick to turn on each other when the chips are down. But, the author laces the message with a lot of action and excitement. It simply doesn't get much better than this.